For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Contact: Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Regional Administrator for New England Carries Heavy Baggage from Dow
Boston — The corporate experience of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top official for the New England office will disqualify him from working on more than a score of Superfund sites in the region, according to a document posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, he will be barred from working on new matters arising from 14 chemical companies in his new capacity at EPA.
On August 22, 2019, EPA announced the appointment of Dennis Deziel to serve as Regional Administrator for Region 1, covering environmental protection efforts in the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut and ten Tribal Nations. Deziel most recently worked at Dow as its Director of Federal Government Affairs.
Dow is one of the leading chemical manufacturers in the world. Dow and its subsidiaries have some responsibility for as many as 238 of the U.S. Superfund toxic waste sites, roughly 18% of the more than 1,300 such sites across the country. Dow’s history also includes infamous chemical disasters such as the 1984 mass poisoning in Bhopal, India.
Under ethics rules, due to his role at Dow, Deziel is forbidden from participating in any EPA matter involving his former employer for two years after his start date. That list itemizes 21 active Superfund sites, nearly one-fifth of the 123 total Superfund sites in New England. In addition, Deziel is barred from working on two other toxic cleanups and any toxic issues arising from 14 chemical companies, including Union Carbide, General Latex, and Poly-Carb.
“It is beyond ironic that the experience supposedly qualifying Dennis Deziel to work at EPA disqualifies him for ethical reasons,” stated PEER New England Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA Region 1, noting that under Trump top EPA appointees have had trouble sticking to their corporate recusals. “Dow certainly has expertise in toxic contamination, but its track record in cleaning up after itself leaves something to be desired.”
As part of its Rust-Belt industrial legacy, New England has a large number of Superfund sites, some of which have entailed lengthy, still incomplete remediation processes. Progress on these languishing sites depends upon the rigor of EPA enforcement and oversight. Not only will Deziel be unable to work on the toxic sites with which he is most familiar, but his background suggests that he will have a pro-corporate and anti-EPA bias.
“Superfund in New England needs strong new leadership that Mr. Deziel seems most unlikely to provide,” added Bennett, citing Deziel tweets promoting his role as a “proud member” of the “DowChemical family.” “Even if he could act, the question is whether as Administrator Deziel will protect the public interest as zealously as he represents Dow.”